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Travel

West into the Rising Sun

by Ken Eddy

Japan, land of the rising sun, a country of contrast, steeped in history that seems to contradict the futuristic side of the country.

August 2009 I found myself standing in front of the Hiroshima City Hall trying desperately to take a picture of the Hinomarus (Japanese flag). I say desperately, due to the fact that it was a sweltering 40 degrees Celsius, and not a breath of wind in the air. The flag just hung there, like it too, could feel the humid mid-day heat and just needed to rest.

Giving up my quest for the perfect shot, I shuffled back to the hotel and the relief of air conditioning. As I entered the hotel I practically ran head on into Dr. David Suzuki. Caught off guard I blurted out “David” as if I knew him personally. He stopped and stared at me for a second that then said, “You must be Canadian”. Well “duh”, I wonder what gave it away! The Canadian accent and the fact that I had a t-shirt with CANADA written across the front or the maple leaf on my hat? Of course it could have been the fact that I am six feet tall, poster child for a WASP, and sweating like a horse? Choose anyone of the above and Doc nailed it. We chatted briefly as he had to run to an awaiting van and vanished. (I always thought he was taller).

My good friend and travel companion, Leo Bruneau, was reluctant to leave the comfort of the AC, but nevertheless, I dragged him out to what would be, one of the major mind-blowing adventures of the trip.

We ventured a few blocks to a rather large park in the middle of the city that is made up of an island and a fork in two rivers.

The busy street filled with people became even busier as we approached the park. Once in the park we were immersed in a sea of humanity. There were thousands of people filling this huge park. I was thinking that this just can’t be a normal day in Hiroshima City Park and it definitely was not. It was on this very site 64 years ago, August 6, 1945, that the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped during World War II.

The scene that unfolded is hard to describe but I will do my best.

There were News crews from around the world, peace activists from every continent, flowers and wreaths, all engulfed in a deathly silence. We worked our way down the park toward the fork in the river, and on the far bank were the remains of a building, notably called the Atomic Dome (not its official name of course). Picture a round dome approximately six stories high with concrete sides and half the top missing. Some iron girders and supports were all that kept it from completely collapsing.

The allies targeted a bridge at a river crossing a few hundred yards away and the bomb was detonated prior to it actually hitting the ground for optimum effect, and that it had, virtually incinerating everything around it for hundreds of yards. Why this Atomic Dome was not completed obliterated remains a mystery.

Surrounding the Dome, were hundreds of people making and placing decorative memorial candles on the hedge that circles the building. Others were making paper lanterns approximately 12 inches high by 8 inches in diameter with a stand at middle/bottom for a small candle to be perched.

These reddish paper lanterns were being lit and set into the slow moving current by dignitaries, citizens, and yes, I even spotted David setting one adrift on the far bank. To view thousands of lanterns slowly floating with the current while surrounded by such a large mass of humanity watching in silence, was quite a spectacle. Even the occasional orchestra performance couldn’t break the spell.

Now I cannot fail to mention the cute little Japanese woman who was holding up a sign reading “Free Hugs”. I thought it was the Canadian thing to do and I accepted one (at that point I needed one).

Fast forward three days. Leo and I find ourselves in Nagasaki. Anyone who follows history will know the significance of this city, as it was here at 11:02 on August 9, 1945, that the world’s second atomic bomb was dropped.

Leo, myself and a young student from Tokyo, who we recruited to be our translator (I have to mention that English is not as widely spoken in Japan as you would think), were observing a moment of silence in a park prior to the Prime Minister of Japan reading an address.

To my right were two little old ladies (guessing 80ish) dressed in black and sitting on two lawn chairs. I asked our interpreter to inquire if they had been here during that time period and they said yes, they were in a factory not too far away making bombs for the Japanese military.

Prior to, and during World War II, the Japanese parliament was dominated by the military and despite the turn of events in the war, was not in the mood to surrender to the allies, who had just battled their way across two islands, Iwo Jima and Konawa, at a cost of thousands of lives on both sides.

It was estimated at the time that it would cost one million allied lives to take the main islands of Japan and that was the main reason that President Harry Truman decided to use the bomb in an effort to end the war once and for all. After the second blast in Nagasaki, Emperor Hirohito surrendered unconditionally to the allies.

During my tour of Japan I only spotted three Japanese flags. Why I wondered, would there not be more of these Hinomarus flapping in the wind across the country? Research has taught me that not all Japanese respect the Hinomarus since it has a military background and it reminds them of the horror of war!

Never again do they want the military to control the government.

Never again do they want to experience such atrocities, agony, and loss of life.

Never again should another bomb be dropped.

Never again!

Author: Ken Eddy

Get Out There & Live Life

by Ken Eddy

OK, you’re staring into the mirror and there in the glass is an old wolf looking back. You’re thinking, maybe I’ll make some homemade soup or perhaps take the Harley on a three day cruise…and then it hits you…you don’t own a Harley and have no idea how to make soup!

Is it mid-life crisis (not that you believe in such a thing) or is it the fact that you have devoted the last 30 plus years to acquiring things and generally just paying bills? Could it be that you have just watched a travel/adventure documentary with a couple of intrepid travelers who have spent the last six months traveling South East Asia or how about the fact that your bucket list seems to be getting heavier instead of lighter?

Whatever the reason, you have made a decision and to hell with the consequences, kind of, sort of, maybe…hmmm, maybe you should weigh the pros and cons of taking off on a great adventure (albeit maybe only a few weeks or so). Yes that’s it; you are a conservative, careful planning kind of guy that likes to add up the costs of going vs staying home and doing the responsible thing.

Take this piece of advice…don’t add up the pros and cons period! Your list of cons will always outweigh your pros due to one simple fact…the majority of pros will only become evident after you have returned from your adventure and you find yourself asking, why the hell did I not do this years ago?

Well then, do the math on this…you are 50 plus years old, add on 10 years and what do you get? Does it look like a formula that adds up to a stronger, leaner more adventuresome guy ready to take on the world or did you just mouth the words…Oh Oh?

The one true thing about life, you’re  are not getting out of it alive!

 

Thailand December 2005, I am leaning against the wheelhouse on the bow of a 40 ft Thai fishing trawler that has been converted to a foot passenger ferry. At my feet at the tip of the bow is an offering to Buddha. It is warm, but not too warm, the sun and a light breeze coming off the Andaman Sea create a pleasant balance. My travel buddies, Leo and Ray are to the right and the left of me. Leo is engaged in conversation with a fellow Canadian, she is a young lady from Saskatoon who is traveling with her American marine boyfriend. They have come from South Korea where she teaches English and he (I assume) is stationed. Ray is chatting with some German travelers (you cannot go anywhere in the world and not run into German travelers).

As we chug across the open sea it gives me time to reflect back to the craziness of Patong Beach, situated on the Island of Phuket, from its bars and shops, to the insane drivers on hundreds of scooters. My friend Ray is still recovering from a header over the handlebars flip
(note to Ray: apply back break only) and his daily trips to the hospital to have his bandages changed.

After a lengthy ride we finally approach Koh Phi Phi (Pi Pi Island). When you dream of Thailand, this is the island in your dreams. Shaped like a dumbbell with two high peaks at either end and a short stretch of land between the peaks (approximately 2-3 blocks wide, depending how you measure. With the west side having the main dock and one walking street of commercial shops, the east side is absolutely picturesque!

If you have ever watched the 007 movie “The Man with the Golden Gun” then you will be familiar the scenery, the beaches and the unique islands.

As we departed Koh Phi Phi I found myself standing on another small ferry boat staring back at the island. I’m sure I was thinking, what a terrific little island, I sure hope that the many tourists that flock to this small island paradise continue to respect the delicate balance between nature and humans so evident on its shores. To make a point, there were several handwritten signs on the island stating “Save Phi Phi”.

But it was not the humans that were going to be the biggest threat to the island and its inhabitants. No, it was Mother Nature that gave the island its biggest test ever. Less than a week after my departure THE TSUNAMI crashed into the tiny island, slamming it from both sides and turning the small strip of land between the two peaks into a virtual washing machine of death and destruction.

Yes, life can be very sobering and short! As you look into that mirror I hope the person staring back at you appreciates the time you have left, the energy you have and the importance of getting out there and living life instead of crawling onto the couch and watching it!

Author: Ken Eddy


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